Basic Electronics

Picture of Basic Electronics
Getting started with basic electronics is easier than you might think. This Instructable will hopefully demystify the basics of electronics so that anyone with an interest in building circuits can hit the ground running. This is a quick overview into practical electronics and it is not my goal to delve deeply into the science of electrical engineering. If you are interested in learning more about the science of basic electronics, Wikipedia is a good place to start your search.

By the end of this Instructable, anyone with an interest to learn basic electronics should be able to read a schematic and build a circuit using standard electronic components.
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Step 1: Electricity

Picture of Electricity
There are two types of electrical  signals , those being alternating current (AC), and direct current (DC).

With alternating current, the direction electricity flows throughout the circuit is constantly reversing. You may even say that it is alternating direction. The rate of reversal is measured in Hertz, which is the number of reversals per second. So, when they say that the US power supply is 60 Hz, what they mean is that it is reversing 120 times per second (twice per cycle).

With Direct Current, electricity flows in one direction between power and ground. In this arrangement there is always a positive source of voltage and ground (0V) source of voltage. You can test this by reading a battery with a multimeter. For great instructions on how to do this, check out Ladyada's multimeter page (you will want to measure voltage in particular).

Speaking of voltage, electricity is typically defined as having a voltage and a current rating. Voltage is obviously rated in Volts and current is rated in Amps. For instance, a brand new 9V battery would have a voltage of 9V and a current of around 500mA (500 milliamps).

Electricity can also be defined in terms of resistance and watts. We will talk a little bit about resistance in the next step, but I am not going to be going over Watts in depth. As you delve deeper into electronics you will encounter components with Watt ratings. It is important to never exceed the Wattage rating of a component, but fortunately that Wattage of your DC power supply can easily be calculated by multiplying the voltage and current of your power source.

If you want a better understanding of these different measurements, what they mean, and how they relate, check out this informative video on Ohm's Law.

Most basic electronic circuits use DC electricity. As such, all further discussion of electricity will revolve around DC electricity.
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Can someone please clarify whether resistors are polarized or not? I apologize if that is a silly question, but I am a novice and I know only what I've read here in this article.

No, they are not polarized.

Thank you. Might you also be able to tell me if electricity passing through the resistor in the opposing direction changes the amount of resistance?
smohare14 days ago

superb tutorial ....its very easy to learn on instructables,com

very god!

mk48416 days ago

Thanks for this - I've just posted my first Instructable on the Nic Nac Tic Tac crystal radio and your explanations of some of the components are better than mine - I'll be referring people here for a quick start up course, instead of trying to reinvent the electronic wheel - mk484

iruwl19 days ago
jasonamri21 days ago

My friend wanted to learn all of this so he came to me. I redirected him to this. I wish it was there when I started out with electronics. Thanks anyway

Dnoel425 days ago

great! I learned the basics so quick!!!

jgibson2427 days ago
Please explain what 'ground' is in detail! I'm very confused
JesusGeek29 days ago

Hello Randy!

I have a few suggestions for your ible.

1. Where applicable, try to simplify some of the content. I don't mean take out information, but try to explain it in simpler English so more people can understand.

2. Give out information on where people can get the electronic parts (unless I'm an idiot and passed it). Perhaps websites like,, or are good places. Tayda Electronics is the cheapest price-wise on most stuff, and I am quite satisfied with their products.

3. Add a link for an interactive electronic program. There are quite a few of these online that virtual schools use for teaching electricity to students. If you can find one of these, try adding the link or embedding it if possible.

4. I didn't see anything that talked about the possible dangers AC voltage. As common as it is to find warnings on AC, I would put a warning in bold somewhere.

Thanks for sharing!

- Sam

sjadav11 month ago

thanx yaar such a nice basic clarification you discusss here

ramontorres1 month ago

Excellent instructable, very well explained and very clear too, the best I've seen.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

JahFyahh1 month ago

Loving it, thanks for the teachings

walelgn1 month ago

amaizing! 10q

Jagro1011 month ago
This is the best instructable I've seen yet!!!!
pdroog1 month ago

Excellent!! Thanks so much.


stinkytoad1 month ago
Wow thanks, you done a fine job!
tamahlg1 month ago

So Helpful! Thanks

S0uraV_DAS1 month ago

Very helpful,Thank you for sharing!

S0uraV_DAS1 month ago

Very helpful,Thank you for sharing!

Echt gut instructables Gute einfürung in die welt der elektronik COOL

Echt gut instructables Gute einfürung in die welt der elektronik COOL

Echt gut instructables Gute einfürung in die welt der elektronik COOL

transistor21 month ago
you are my hero

this is by far the most helpful instructable i know of

check out my similar instructable how to take apart a laptop by karatedragon6

ThisIsSteve1 month ago

Really nice instructable, great for beginers.

nodcah1 month ago

This wasn't already featured?!? Really helpful instructable though!

Victor8o51 month ago

Coils and transformers also have interesting properties.

kvasche1 month ago
Thx !!
kt_0271 month ago

Hi nice tutorial thx.

makes me happy to c my flashing led circuit

would welcome more tutorials, circuits to understand each device...

JKPieGuy1 year ago
Actually these are called "Cells" Batteries are a collection of "Cells".
tsa'ad JKPieGuy5 months ago

You are correct but lets face it, how many people in everyday life have you ever heard asking for "Cells" in the supermarket?

JKPieGuy tsa'ad2 months ago

That is a valid point. Infact, my Electronic's teacher had a talk about that on the first day of class.

freeza362 years ago
Let me add this realy quick (i think its right) the first picture is in series, the seconed in parallel
nope u got it mixed around flip it and your good
first is parallel second is series
in parallel the power that goes through all of the lights only comes from one end instead of multiple power wires from the power source
Srijal97 bboyman3 months ago

no bboyman, first is series and second is parallel.

You have it drawn correctly. When I teach circuits, i use the following definitions which seem to bring together what other users have said. I find that these definitions are understandable by most children.

Simple circuit: A circle/path through which electricity passes to connect a power source to ONE component.

Series circuit: One large circle/path through which electricity passes to MORE THAN ONE component. The current flows on one circle path through all of the components. Thus, if one of the components (e.g., bulbs) is removed from the socket, the electricity stops flowing, and all of the bulbs in the series circuit stop lighting up.

Parallel circuit: 2 or more connecting circles/paths where each component is directly connected in its own circuit/circle to a power source. If one bulb is removed from the socket, the electricity still flows to the other bulbs.

Yup, it is parallel, the current has multiple pathways to travel through...whereas in series, there is only one pathway for the current...First one is series, second one is parallel...

in parallel, it comes from multiple wires, whereas in series, it goes through one wire...

When things are wired in series, things are wired one after another, such that electricity has to pass through one thing, then the next thing, then the next, and so on.

When things are wired in parallel, they are wired side by side, such that electricity passes through all of them at the same time, from one common point to another common point

TheWiseWalrus4 months ago

great article

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